Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James Watson, 2 February 1792

From James Watson1

New York Feby 2d. 1792


The nature of my business has allowed me but a few liesure moments since my return to this place. I called pretty early, & repeatedly on General Schuyler, but have not had the good fortune to find him at home:2 If I had I am not sufficiently known to him, to expect his confidential communications on a subject so delicate as that of the approaching Election.3

Knowing that truth & the public good engage all your attention, & govern all your actions, it may serve as apology for my suggesting the observations I have made, & the inferences that result. So far then as I have been able to collect opininions, there is some prospect that the gentleman alluded to in our last interview4 may at all events be prefered to the Government; And in case it was tho’t expedient to give him the Federal interest, the probability would be strong.

If that Interest is denied him, & he succeeds; will it not make him an enemy if he is not one now, or increase his enmity if he now has any? If he is refused this support, & fails; will he not return to the senate of the United States, imbittered against the government & its ablest advocates? a circumstance the more to be regretted in the present irritable State of the Legislature, & Body Politic: If this aid is given him, & he fails; will it not serve to moderate his conduct, or rather to bind him by the ties of interest & gratitude to his supporters? If it could be possible that he should absolve himself from these ties, would not the ingratitude, & atrocity of the act, diminish his power of doing harm, & make all future opposition to him equally just & popular? You will have the goodness to recollect that these remarks, are founded upon the presumption, that Judge Yates5 chuses not to be a candidate, & that he will resign his pretensions with most satisfaction to the character in Question.

This I am assured is the fact, without which I should not have troubled you with these remarks.

Whenever I imagine how much easier it is to embarrass, & obstruct the benign operations of Government than to give them the requisite tone, & vigour I am solicitous, to remove talents, perseverance & address as far from the opposition as possible. I have omitted to urge any positive good, that may result from this measure; Altho’ I am strongly persuaded that a very great one may accrue.

The absence of evil will continue to be desirable, untill the public mind becomes more quiet, & Federal habits take deeper root. I shall only add that the cautious distance observed by this gentleman, towards all parties, however exceptionable in a politician may be a real merit in a Governor.

I have the honor to be,   With perfect truth & Esteem   Your Most Humble Servant

James Watson

Hone A Hamilton Esqr

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Watson, formerly a resident of Connecticut, was a New York City merchant and a director of the Bank of the United States.

2Philip Schuyler was in New York City as a member of the New York State Senate. He had left or was soon to leave for Philadelphia to consult with H. See Isaac Ledyard to H, February 1, 1792.

3Watson is referring to the approaching election for governor of New York.

4Watson is referring to Aaron Burr. See Schuyler to H, January 29, 1792, and Ledyard to H, February 1, 1792.

5The announcement of Robert Yates’s refusal to run for governor was withheld until Schuyler’s return to New York. See Ledyard to H, February 1, 1792.

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